Temple cash: Where does it go?

Temple cash: Where does it go?

Auditors & accounting training for monks needed to prevent powerful monks from taking donation money for personal wealth.

A photo on his website shows the former Luang Pu Nen Kham Chattiko at his California home. The ex-monk is believed to be in the United States, although it now is the subject of several legal cases in Thailand.


Truth about temple cash isn't pretty


Sanitsuda Ekachai

Did the notorious Nen Kham really have sexual affairs with at least eight women while he was a monk? Did he buy a private jet and a mansion in the US which he showed off on social media? Did he sleep with a minor and father her child? Was he involved in drugs and money laundering? Was it him or his brother lying beside a woman in a picture?

Now that he has been defrocked while in hiding in the US, could he be deported to stand trial in Thailand and face the music? Or could he just continue to enjoy the high life abroad?

The Nen Kham theatre has been entertaining the public for over a month now.

Many questions about the scandal have been asked. They include the question over the role of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) - whether the DSI has helped "spin" the Nen Kham saga to steer the public away from the rice-pledging and the Thaksin Shinawatra-Yuthasak Sasiprapa YouTube clip scandals.

Yet the most important question has not yet been asked. It's about the management of temple funds, or rather the lack of it. Indeed, how could the 34-year-old Wirapol Sukphol succeed in fleecing the temple's merit-making money for so long without anyone knowing or doing something about it? Where were the financial monitoring and auditing systems?

The clergy governs 37,075 temples nationwide. It is impossible for an organisation of this gigantic size not to have a system in place to ensure temples' proper financial management, isn't it?

Prepare to confront the cold, hard fact - no, our temples do not have such monitoring and auditing systems.

Worse, temples do not even have a proper accounting system, according to research by Nada Chansom of the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA).

In an effort to understand how temples manage public donations, she talked to monks and temple committee members at 490 temples nationwide as well as relevant authorities. They all painted the same picture of temple fund management - horribly disorganised and prone to corruption.

According to monastic discipline, monks cannot even touch money. In practice, monks routinely treat donations they receive at merit-making ceremonies as their own while the abbots enjoy full control over temple money.

We are talking here about 100-120 billion baht per year that the public donates to 37,075 temples.

According to the research, most temples have only a make-do accounting system which does not meet accounting standards. There is no monitoring nor auditing of temple finances either. Asked why, the monks simply said they do not have a knowledge of accountancy.

Which raises another question: What is the Supreme Sangha Clergy doing?

The answer: The elders did order temples to keep proper accounting and records of temple funds and assets, but the order stopped there. Senior monks down the line are supposed to monitor temples in their jurisdictions. In reality, it is each to his own, until scandals erupt.

The abuse of temple money by Wirapol Sukphol aka Nen Kham has been exposed by his public display of material indulgences. We are astounded by his wealth. But there are many wealthier monks. They are just more discreet and better protected by politically powerful patrons. And they can go on using temple money as their own as long as there is no effective system to prevent it.

To tackle temple corruption, Ms Nada suggests giving monks accounting training and making it mandatory for temples to have annual financial audits conducted by professionals. Temple committee members should also come from civic groups to ensure checks and balances. At present, the abbots select their own men.

The National Office of Buddhism (NOB) should also do more to make temple management more transparent and accountable. It won't be easy. Temples are now officially required to send annual reports on temple money and assets to the NOB. But out of those 37,075 temples, only 1,321 did so in 2011. There is no punishment for non-compliance, so why bother?

This is why temple corruption is the norm, and this is why public faith in monks and temples is declining.

Sanitsuda Ekachai is Editorial Pages Editor, Bangkok Post


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  • abbot (noun): the head monk at a temple - เจ้าอาวาส
  • abroad: in or to a foreign country - ในต่างประเทศ
  • abuse: the use of something in a bad, dishonest, or harmful way - การใช้ในทางที่ผิด
  • accountable: responsible for something that has happened - ซึ่งรับผิดชอบ, สามารถอธิบายได้
  • accountancy: the work or profession of an accountant, the process or work of keeping financial accounts - การบัญชี
  • accounting: the preparation of financial records for a company, organisation or person - การบัญชี
  • affair: a sexual relationship between two people - ความสัมพันธ์ทางเพศ
  • aka: .... Also Known As .... , .... AKA.... -
  • annual: happening every year - ทุกๆปีด, ประจำปี
  • asset: a thing of value - สิ่งที่มีคุณค่า
  • astounding: extremely surprising or shocking - น่าประหลาดใจ
  • audit: to officially examine the financial records of a company, organisation, or person to see that they are accurate - สอบบัญชี
  • authorities: people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
  • beside (adverb): at the side of someone or something and close to them - อยู่ข้าง
  • bother: to spend time and/or energy doing something - ทำให้ตัวเองยุ่งยาก, ยุ่งกับ
  • cash: money in the form of notes or coins - เงินสด
  • ceremony (noun): a formal public event - งานพิธี
  • checks and balances: a system that limits power within a political system, group, or organization in which no single part of it can become too powerful, because it needs the agreement of the other parts for its actions to be legal -
  • civic group: a group made up of citizens rather than government officials -
  • clergy: the priests or ministers of a religion - คณะสงฆ์, คณะพระคริสต์
  • committee: a group of people who are chosen, usually by a larger group, to make decisions or to deal with a particular subject - คณะกรรมการ
  • compliance: the practice of obeying a law, rule, or request - การยอมทำตาม
  • conduct: to do something in an organised way; to carry out — - ลงมือทำ, ดำเนิน, ปฏิบัติ
  • confront: to deal with a difficult problem or situation - เผชิญหน้า
  • defrock: to officially remove a monk priest from his job, because he has done something wrong - ทำให้สึกจากการเป็นพระ
  • deport: to send someone out of a country, usually because they do not have a legal right to be there - เนรเทศออกจากประเทศ, ส่งตัวกลับประเทศ
  • discipline: the practice of training people to obey rules and orders and punishing them if they do not; the controlled behaviour or situation that results from this training - ระเบียบวินัย  
  • discreet: careful not to say anything that is secret or that could upset someone; careful not to attract attention - สุขุมรอบคอบ, ระมัดระวัง
  • disorganised (adjective): messy, without any system or order, chaotic, orderless, disarranged - ซึ่งไม่เป็นระบบ, ซึ่งยุ่งเหยิง, ซึ่งไม่เป็นระเบียบ, ซึ่งระส่ำระสาย, ซึ่งวุ่นวาย, Syn.
  • display: to put something in a particular place so that people can see it easily - โชว์, แสดง
  • donate: to give something such as money or goods to an organisation, especially to a temple, charity, school, political party, etc. - บริจาค
  • donation: money or goods that you give to an organisation, especially one that helps people - เงินหรือสิ่งของบริจาค
  • down the line (adjective): with lower rank or position, lower in the hierarchy -
  • each to his own (adjective): everyone must take care of themselves -
  • effective: producing the result that was intended - ได้ผลดี
  • elders: people who are older - คนที่อายุมากกว่า, คนที่เป็นผู้ใหญ่กว่า
  • ensure: to make certain that something happens or is done - ให้การยืนยัน, รับรอง, ให้ความมั่นใจ
  • entertain: to interest and amuse somebody in order to please them - ทำให้เพลิดเพลิน, ทำให้สนุกสนาน
  • erupt (verb): to start suddenly - ปะทุขึ้น
  • exposed: made known; uncovered - เปิดเผยต่อ
  • face the music: to accept and deal with criticism or punishment for something you have done - ได้รับการลงโทษ
  • faith: trust in somebody's ability or knowledge; trust that somebody/something will do what has been promised - ศรัทธา
  • finances: money used to run a business, an activity or a project - แหล่งเงินทุน, แหล่งรายได้
  • financial: involving money - เกี่ยวกับเงิน, ทางการเงิน
  • fleece (verb): steal from and cheat people -
  • funds: money needed or available to spend on something - เงินทุน
  • gigantic: extremely large - มหึมา ใหญ่โต
  • govern: to control the way that things happen - ควบคุม, บังคับ, ครอบงำ
  • high life (noun): the luxurious and pleasurable life of a rich person -
  • horribly (adverb): in a very bad way, fearfully, frightfully, - อย่างน่าเกลียดน่ากลัว, อย่างน่าสยองขวัญ
  • impossible (adjective): something that cannot happen - เป็นไปไม่ได้
  • in practice (adjective): the way things are really done - การปฏิบัติ
  • indulgence: something that you allow yourself to have even though it is not necessary - การยินยอมทำตามความประสงค์
  • jurisdiction: a country or area in which a particular legal system operates - ขอบเขตอำนาจที่ศาลและกฏหมายควบคุมไปถึง
  • knowledge (noun): all the facts that people know about a subject (example: medical knowledge) - ความรู้
  • make-do (adjective): a quick system or way of doing things that gets the job done but could be a lot better -
  • management: the act or skill of dealing with people or situations in a successful way - การจัดการ
  • mandatory: ordered by a law or rule - ตามข้อบังคับ
  • mansion: a large house, especially a beautiful one - คฤหาสน์
  • material: relating to physical objects or money - ที่เกี่ยวข้องกับวัตถุ
  • member: a person, a country or an organization that has joined a particular group, club or team - สมาชิก
  • merit-making: doing good things according to religious beliefs - การทำบุญ
  • minor: someone who has not reached the age where they are legally an adult - เยาวชน
  • monastic (adjective): having to do with monks - เกี่ยวกับพระหรือที่อยู่ของพระ
  • money laundering: hiding the origin of money obtained from illegal activities by putting it into legal businesses - การฟอกเงิน
  • monitoring: regularly checking something - การจับตาดู, การตรวจตรา, การเฝ้าระมัดระวัง
  • nationwide: throughout a whole country - ทั่วทั้งประเทศ
  • norm (noun): a situation or type of behavior that is expected and considered to be typical - มาตรฐาน, ปกติ, ภาวะปกติ
  • notorious: famous for something bad - ซึ่งมีชื่อเสียงในทางไม่ดี
  • officially: publicly and by somebody who is in a position of authority - อย่างเป็นทางการ
  • patron: someone who supports the work of others, usually by given them money - ผู้อุปถัมภ์
  • present (adjective): this time, happening now, happening currently - ปัจจุบันนี้
  • private: intended for or involving a particular person or group of people, not for people in general - ส่วนตัว
  • professional: showing that somebody is well trained, skilled and responsible - ที่ทำเป็นอาชีพ
  • prone (verb): to likely to experience a particular problem more often than is usual - ที่มีแนวโน้ม
  • proper: right, appropriate or correct; according to the rules - เหมาะสม
  • public: open to people in general - สาธารณะ
  • punishment: an act or a way of punishing somebody - การลงโทษ
  • reality: what is actually happening - ความเป็นจริง
  • record: a written account of something that is kept so that it can be looked at and used in the future - บันทึก, รายงาน
  • relevant: directly connected and important to what is being discussed or considered - ที่เกี่ยวข้อง
  • research: a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - การวิจัย
  • rice-pledging scheme: a government programme in which farmers sell rice to the government at a particular price, with the right to reclaim the rice if the market price goes higher - โครงการจำนำข้าว
  • routinely: regularly, done often - จำเจ, บ่อยๆ, ซ้ำซาก
  • Sangha: ordained Buddhist monks or nuns - สงฆ์
  • scandal (noun): a situation in which people behave in a dishonest or immoral way that shocks people - เรื่องอื้อฉาว
  • senior: with a high rank or position - อาวุโส
  • show off: to behave in a way that is intended to attract people’s attention and make them admire you - อวดตัว
  • social media: the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc. - เครือข่ายสังคมออนไลน์
  • spin: a way of presenting information or a situation in a particular way, a way of thinking about something -
  • standards: rules for behaving which should be obeyed - มาตรฐาน, บรรทัดฐาน, กฎเกณฑ์, กรอบ
  • steer: to control the direction in which something or someone moves - นำทาง ถือพวงมาลัย
  • supreme: most important, or most powerful - สูงสุด
  • tackle: to make an organised and determined attempt to deal with a problem - จัดการกับปัญหา
  • theatre: a building or an outdoor area where plays and similar types of entertainment are performed - โรงละคร, โรงมหรสพ
  • touch: the sense that enables you to be aware of things and what they are like when you put your hands and fingers on them - การสัมผัส
  • transparent: not keeping anything secret; open - โปร่งใส
  • trial (noun): the process of judges examining a legal case in a court of law and making a legal decision about it - การพิจารณาและตัดสินคดี
  • video clip (noun): a short piece of video, in YouTube, for example - คลิปวีดีโอ
  • wealth: a large amount of money, property, etc. that a person or country owns - ความมั่งคั่ง
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